Have A Nice Day, Chinese gangster animation, blocked in France

By Stephen McDonell
BBC News, Beijing

image copyrightNezha Bros Pictures/Le-joy Animation Studio

The makers of a cutting-edge Chinese film that was pulled from the world's premier animation festival following government pressure from Beijing say they still hope the movie will get a run in cinemas at home later this year.

One of the organisers of the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in France, Patrick Eveno, told French newspaper La Croix, that Have A Nice Day had to be withdrawn because they "did not have the right to endanger the film's team".

The makers of the grungy, underworld, black comedy - called Hao Ji Le in Mandarin - reportedly lacked official clearance from Chinese officials to have their work shown internationally.

Producer Yang Cheng told the BBC that the piece was "about people's desire and fate".

He said that "the Chinese movie industry should be proud of it," adding "it has nothing to do with politics".

He confirmed that it was his team that had asked the Annecy festival organisers to pull the film.

image copyrightNezha Bros Pictures/Le-joy Animation Studio
image copyrightNezha Bros Pictures/Le-joy Animation Studio

Despite the pressure being brought to bear from Chinese government officials to stop the movie being shown in France, Yang Cheng said he was still optimistic that Chinese audiences would get to see it.

"We hope it will be shown in Chinese cinemas in the second half of this year," he said.

Recently the Chinese government has taken a harder line on the appearance of films overseas. It requires any work being shown in an international festival to gain approval from the authorities here.

An official from the Movie Bureau within the State Administration of Radio Film and Television (SARFT) told the BBC it would not comment on the matter. Calls to the administration's press office went unanswered.

image copyrightNezha Bros Pictures/Le-joy Animation Studio

Have A Nice Day was described in Variety as having a "witty animation style" and as a "gangster caper that literally follows the money".

The work, by Chinese director Liu Jian, is seen as being at the forefront of a new wave of arthouse animation coming out of China.

In one scene a hit man is sent to collect money owed to his boss or inflict an appropriately violent level of punishment.

However, as he pushes a meat cleaver on to the face of his younger target who hasn't paid back what he owes, the two get into a conversation.

The man with the cleaver cutting into his cheek says he always wanted to get a job like that of his assailant, but that his "balls are too small".

image copyrightNezha Bros Pictures/Le-joy Animation Studio

Within a short period of time they proceed to speak about girlfriends and plastic surgery; the pressure to get married in China; and loyalty to one's parents.

The dark, funny treatment of these subjects would ring true for a Chinese audience.

An official statement from the Annecy festival organisers said that the decision to withdraw Have A Nice Day had been "imposed upon us".

It goes on: "We're disappointed about the official pressures that have prevented us from presenting this remarkable film this year and we hope that international audiences will soon have the possibility to see it".

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